Alumni Talk about Language, Teaching English in Spain, & Taking Chances

Alumni Stu Babin (IDS Fall 2013) and Martha Castell (English-Creative Writing Spring 2014) sat down to talk about language use, their time at Nicholls as English majors, and Martha’s experiences teaching English in Madrid, Spain where she continues to live.

In Episode 10 of Stu Babin’s Digging up Rad podcast, Martha talks about growing in in a bilingual household, about learning and speaking different dialects of Spanish at home from her Cuban father and Honduran mother, and learning English at school in the New Orleans area. As Martha says growing up was “a crazy little melting pot” of cultures, languages, and dialects.

Martha says being English major was a natural choice, “the English classes were enjoyable, I liked writing papers, I enjoyed seeing different aspects to things, and analyzing things differently.” Growing up Martha says her mother “had to give me a book allowance…because I would buy so many books.” Martha says “because I can write, I’m able to express [my] appreciation for things that are artistic and creative.”

Taking the Publishing Practicum class with Dr. Kathy Conner and working on Mosaic, the Official Literary Magazine of Nicholls State University was a a great way to explore both her own creative writing and her love of “the behind the scenes stuff of writing.”

After working for two years in the insurance industry, Martha says “I didn’t want it to be tens years later and me regretting not doing something.” Martha decided to apply to teach English in Madrid Spain. After applying, she was accepted and decided to take the plunge.

Martha says of her decision to stay in Madrid, “I went outside one day and walked around Madrid and realized this is the place I want to be for the rest of my life..I just felt so comfortable.” “Being able to travel on the weekends” is one of the perks of living and working in Madrid.

She also enjoys being a bilingual role model for her students, “look I speak a second language, you can too, you just have to work hard for it.”

Living in Madrid has made Martha realize how different Spanish accents can be. She notes that many people in Madrid say, “No, no, no, no you can’t be from the United States” when they hear her speak Spanish with a Central American accent. Martha also notes how different people in Madrid (and around the world) make judgements about people based on their accents and the cultural familiars that come through when we talk. She notes of the Madrid accent “there are some things I can’t wrap my head around it, I can’t get my tongue to do it.” Martha says “I can see how my Spanish is changing” and how “my mom comments on you’re sounding more and more Spanish everyday.”  For Martha, how she speaks Spanish is grounded in respect for her family and its cultural traditions, “I don’t want to lose that part of me that grew up speaking the Spanish my mom taught me.”

You can listen to Stu and Martha’s conversation at Stu’s podcast Digging up Rad on Spotify or on iTunes.

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